Japan puts its first reactor back online
Dozens of protesters shouted and danced at the gate of a nuclear power plant as it restarted on Sunday, the first to go back online since Japan shut down all of its reactors for safety checks.
Ohi nuclear plant’s No.3 reactor returned to operation despite a deep division in public opinion over the safety of using nuclear power.
Last month, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda ordered the restarts of reactors No.3 and No.4, saying people’s living standards can’t be maintained without nuclear energy.
Tens of thousands have gathered on Friday evenings around Noda’s official residence, chanting “Saikado hantai” or “No to nuclear restarts”. Protests drawing such numbers are rare in the nation, often known for orderly conformity. Although initially ignored by mainstream media, demonstrations across the country have grown as word spread through social media.
All 50 of Japan’s working reactors were turned off in the wake of last year’s massive earthquake and tsunami, which sent the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant into multiple meltdowns, setting off the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
But worries about a power crunch over the hot summer months have been growing. Officials have warned about blackouts in some regions.
The government says Ohi No.3 and No.4 are safe to restart. Protesters like Taisuke Kohno, a 41-year-old musician among the 200 people trying to blockade the Ohi plant, aren’t so sure.
He said protesters were facing off against riot police and planned to stay there day and night.
“It’s a lie that nuclear energy is clean,” he said. “After experiencing the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, how can Japan possibly want nuclear power?”
And in the latest problem at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co, its operator, said the cooling system for the spent nuclear fuel pool at reactor No.4 broke down on Saturday, and a temporary system was set up yesterday.
The cooling system had to be restored within 70 hours, or temperatures would have started to rise, spewing radiation.